BOE slices budget deficit

By Jeremy
Following a lengthy discussion Thursday evening, Loudon County Board of Education chose to trim deficit spending for the current budget year from $2.1 million to $1.6 million.
The board opted to keep 2 percent raises for teachers but remove four new science, technology, engineering and mathematics positions.
Director of Schools Jason Vance gave members a list of items he wished to rework in this year’s budget that would cut $421,503, one of which was $24,177 for “various salary adjustments to meet scale.”
“I think there was just a lot going on,” Jeremy Buckles, board member, said. “That’s why I’m happy we’ve at least got something to work with now. I think that takes care of some of the big items we needed to take care, like getting our budget reflective of how we’re operating with that salary, decreasing that line item by (600)-something thousand dollars. That was a big step.”
The original 2015-16 budget, which had been approved by Loudon County Commission during the annual budget process, reflected a 4 percent raise and included the four STEM positions. The difference between reducing salary increases to 2 percent and cutting the STEM positions is $689,172, according to a document Vance provided at Thursday’s workshop.
“We have officially trimmed that out, and we basically -— the original budget we passed and county commission passed allowed for us to take up to $2.1 million out of our fund balance, make our budget work, and we cut that further last night,” Buckles said. “We didn’t actually cut a line item to make it work, but we ... as a board we said instead of taking $2.1 out of fund balance we’re at most going to take $1.6 million out of fund balance.”
Vance said the savings would total a little more than $600,000.
“I think in essence what they’re getting at is those amendments will be tabled to discuss later or just won’t be done at all,” he said. “... We know that some of them need to be done because we’ve got auditors trying to help us understand how they want us to move forward with our business, and we’ve got a few amendments that are just needful to be completed.
“But with that being said, I think it’s important to consider the sources of revenue that we’ve got available,” he added. “Do we want to take that from fund balance or do we want to take it from Adequate Facilities Tax or another place? We’ve not got too many options to choose from, but it’ll just be in essence on how the board responds I suppose.”
BOE Chairman Ric Best said he’s unsure what additional cuts will be made following Thursday’s action.
“We know for sure that we cut the STEM positions,” Best said. “We know for sure that we’re only giving teachers 2 percent instead of 4 (percent), but there will have to be some other line item cuts, and the director did make a comment last night relative to where he thought those would be.”
Best said he was disappointed the board likely wouldn’t address security at school entries as quickly as was originally planned, which would cost $130,000, according to the document given by Vance.
“Some of those will have to be cut at $1.6 (million),” Best said. “We will not be able to do some things that we had wanted to do with maintenance, with security. That’s really where I’m disappointed, that we’ll have to postpone some of our security issues where we’re trying to make all of our door entry ways into our schools more secure. But we will get that done. We’ll get that done, it’s just we won’t perhaps to get to do it as quick a pace we had originally wanted to.
“Again, though, usually the director will make recommendations to us on what he would like to see those cuts be determined and then — beyond what the board’s already told me — and then the board will approve, add to or delete from his recommended list,” he added.
The list Vance gave board members included $56,279 for special education, $22,560 for a Tennessee Risk Management insurance increase, $141,281 from an auditor’s guidance about old subfund 142 money and $13,766 for Connect Tennessee for Internet service.
“We’ve got the approval of the commission to do either at this particular point, so we’re not under a great pressure to have a timeline as to when we finally get a resolution on it,” Gary Ubben, board member, said of what to do with spending. “Salaries are set, so that’s the big item at the beginning of the school year. That was at the 2 percent rate, so we don’t need to revisit that one. So it’s just the other issues in the budget as to what we include and what we elect to postpone or eliminate.”
During the meeting, Vance said if the district spent all of the money allotted, the fund balance would be down to about $3.4 million by the end of this fiscal year. About $1 million is estimated to rollover into this year’s budget. The dollar figure will be determined after the audit report comes in. 
“Another thing that we have to do is talk to commission about us locking in getting growth money every year,” Bobby Johnson Jr., board member, said. “This is the first year we’ve got growth money in over five years. We need to lock into that. That way if you get that growth money we can live within our means. It can be done, but we have to have that growth money moving forward and that’s not unreasonable request to the mayor or county commission. That’s very reasonable.”
Growth money received from the county comes in at about $238,000, according to a document handed out at a commission workshop in June.